The family members of Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, said last week that both U.S. veterans and Alabama residents have missing in ukraineThe family said they were last heard in the Kharkiv region on June 8.
Comrades said the two were captured during clashes with Russian troops on June 9. If confirmed, they would be the first Americans captured in the conflict. In recent days, however, Washington and Moscow have provided few specifics.
The State Department said it was also aware of a third U.S. citizen, identified by his family as Grady Kurpasi, a 49-year-old Marine Corps veteran who had travelled to Ukraine but had not been heard from since April. It did not provide any further details, although his family said he may also have been a prisoner of war.
Meanwhile, Russian state television broadcast images that claim to show Drueke and Huynh being detained, although they did not specify their location or who specifically held them.
Drucker and Huang are being held in the Russian-backed separatist-held Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Interfax news agency said on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources.
The report has not been confirmed, but it is significant. A court in the breakaway district in early June Sentenced Two British citizens and a Moroccan national sentenced to death for supporting Ukraine against Russia Invasion February 24.
Here’s what’s known about the supposedly captured American.
What did Russia say?
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov appeared to confirm the pair were captured while fighting in Ukraine, in an interview with NBC News that aired Monday. However, Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that Moscow did not know the location of the two men.
He called Drueke and Huynh “lucky soldiers” and reiterated Moscow’s position that foreign fighters assisting Ukraine were “mercenaries” and therefore not protected by the government. Geneva Conventionsestablished international standards for the humane treatment of prisoners of war.
The men “are involved in the firing and shelling of our military personnel. They are endangering their own lives,” he said, adding that they were “responsible for the crimes they committed.”
When asked if the pair could Sentenced to death If tried in a separatist court, the spokesman said: “We cannot rule out anything as these are court decisions. We never comment on them and have no right to interfere with court decisions.”
While Russia does not carry out the death penalty, the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, whose independence is recognized only by Moscow, have the death penalty written into their statutes.
“We’re talking about mercenaries who threaten the lives of our service members,” Peskov told reporters. “Not only ours, but our service staff [Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics]. “
What did America say?
U.S. officials insist they are Investigationbut so far no details of the man’s arrest have been confirmed.
Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden said he was unaware of the whereabouts of Drucker and Huang.
On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington had been in “direct engagement” with Russian authorities and that “no further details of the whereabouts of these Americans have been provided by Russian authorities, Russian proxy forces or any other entity.”
“We’re pursuing every channel, every opportunity we have to learn more and support their families, especially during this difficult time,” he said.
Price said the U.S. has repeatedly “called on the Russian government and its proxies to live up to their international obligations to treat all individuals, including those captured during the fighting in Ukraine.”
“We expect, in fact, international law and the laws of war expect and require that all persons captured on the battlefield be treated humanely, respectfully and in accordance with the laws of war,” he said.
Meanwhile, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called the Kremlin’s suggestion that Drucker and Huang could be sentenced to death “shocking.”
Kirby declined to say what the U.S. would do if U.S. citizens were not considered prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.
Who are Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh?
Both Drucker and Huang were forced to travel to Ukraine after seeing reports of alleged atrocities committed by Russian troops following the invasion, the family said.
Drucker’s aunt told The Associated Press that while the two didn’t know each other before heading to Ukraine, they became “sprouting” there.
Drucker, from Tuscaloosa, served with the U.S. military in Iraq twice, the last time as a lead gunner in Baghdad in 2008 and 2009, said his mother, Lois Drueke. . She recently told Reuters that Drucker did not “go to Ukraine in a military capacity.” He received military training as a civilian. “
Huang, the son of Vietnamese immigrants, was born and raised in Orange, California, the Decatur Daily reported. When the Russian invasion began, the former U.S. Marine moved to Trinity, Alabama to be with his fiancée and to study robotics at Calhoun Community College.
“I know it’s not my problem, but I have a gut feeling that I have to do something,” Huang told Decatur, describing his decision to travel to Ukraine. “Two weeks into the war, it’s been eating me up and it doesn’t feel right. I’m losing sleep… All I can think about is the situation in Ukraine.”